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About this book

A major re-examination of Habsburg decision-making from 1912 to July 1914, the study argues that Austria-Hungary and not Germany made the crucial decisions for war in the summer of 1914. Based on extensive new archival research, the book traces the gradual militarization of Austro-Hungarian foreign policy during the Balkan Wars. The disasters of those wars and the death of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir-apparent and a force for peace in the monarchy, convinced the Habsburg elite that only a war against Serbia would end the South Slav threat to the monarchy's existence. Williamson also describes Russia's assertive foreign policy after 1912 and stresses the unique linkages of domestic and foreign policy in almost every issue faced by Habsburg statesmen.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
On 28 July 1914 Austria-Hungary declared war on the neighbouring kingdom of Serbia. The declaration came precisely one month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, and his wife Sophie, in Sarajevo by a Bosnian student educated in Serbia. Thus began the Third Balkan War. Almost immediately, the conflict expanded into the First World War with Russia’s decision to mobilize and Germany’s response to that step. The war began in eastern Europe; the Habsburg government in Vienna took the pivotal decisions that started the fighting.
Samuel R. Williamson

1. Austria-Hungary and the International System: Great Power or Doomed Anachronism?

Abstract
The Austro-Hungarian monarchy collapsed in November 1918, a victim of German defeat and internal disintegration. That collapse, after four years of relentless war and untold privation, brought to an end a multinational government whose existence into the twentieth century amazed external observers and satisfied many of the more than fifty million people who lived within its boundaries. No single nationality dominated the government, though two controlled most of the political power. No single political structure unified the state, save a dynasty born of medieval ambitions and successful marriages. No consistent set of political or religious ideals united the people, only the omnipresent portrait of an emperor who had lived — so it seemed — forever. No single conception of raison d’état for the existence of the state animated either the governing elites or the populace. Yet many agreed with the Czech historian Francis Palacký’s pronouncement in 1848 that ‘truly’, if the Austrian empire had not existed for ages, it would be necessary, in the interest of Europe, in the interest of mankind itself, to create it with all speed.’ Coming close to a fundamental reason that kept the monarchy in place and that led to its decision to go to war in 1914, Palacky had asked his hearers to ‘imagine if you will Austria divided into a number of republics and miniature republics. What a welcome basis for a Russian universal monarchy.’1
Samuel R. Williamson

2. The Domestic Context of Habsburg Foreign Policy

Abstract
In 1866 the Prussians defeated Franz Joseph’s forces at Sadowa. The competition between Berlin and Vienna for the domination of the German states had ended with Bismarck’s victory. But there were other ramifications for Franz Joseph. Not only did he lose any chance of leadership in Germany, he also lost his effort of two decades to create an unitary Danubian state. In the wake of defeat, Franz Joseph could no longer resist Hungarian demands for political authority. The Habsburg monarch, negotiating for the dynasty with its hereditary Austrian holdings and in his capacity as king of Hungary, had no choice but to settle with the Magyar leadership. The resulting constitutional arrangements of the 1867 Compromise (Ausgleich) lasted until the monarchy’s collapse in November 1918.1
Samuel R. Williamson

3. Dynasty, Generals, Diplomats: the Instruments of Habsburg Foreign Policy

Abstract
The state, regardless of its political structure, exists in part to protect its citizens and their property, to defend their interests abroad and to pursue a foreign policy that achieves these goals. Diplomatic service, military and naval forces, economic and propaganda activities all facilitate the state’s execution of its responsibilities.1 The Austro-Hungarian state constituted a special case, for foreign policy provided the essential raison d’être of the Dual Monarchy. This foreign policy function had impelled two increasingly quasi-independent states to share a common monarch, a common army and navy and a common foreign policy after 1867. Beyond the monarchy’s sheer survival, it existed to fulfil a set of familiar foreign policy functions in central and southern Europe. If it achieved those tasks, the multinational, dynastic enterprise might endure despite its anomalous status during an age of nationalism. Failure to fulfil those tasks would almost certainly ensure the monarchy’s decline, if not demise.2
Samuel R. Williamson

4. Aehrenthal’s Legacy: Bosnian Colonial Success and the Italo-Turkish War

Abstract
Accounts of nineteenth-century European imperialism usually omit Austria-Hungary. Yet at the Congress of Berlin in 1878 Vienna gained administrative responsibility for the Turkish provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Dual Monarchy thus participated in the liquidation of the Ottoman empire from the start. Cyprus, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and eventually Tripoli (Libya) would thereafter also be lost to Constantinople. Vienna set the pattern that other states would imitate in the scramble for lands in the Mediterranean. Local unrest, fears of political instability, strategic concerns, a collective ‘official mind’ pressing for action and fears that another government might seize the opportunity first: all spurred Habsburg action as later they would London, Paris and Rome. The problems encountered in administering Bosnia and Herzegovina after 1878 would come to set much of the subsequent strategic and economic agenda for the Dual Monarchy.1
Samuel R. Williamson

5. The Monarchy’s Allies: Aggressive Berlin, Dubious Rome, Uncertain Bucharest

Abstract
In 1867 Count Julius Andrássy, as a leading Magyar, negotiated the Ausgleich. Twelve years later, as foreign minister of Austria-Hungary, Andrássy signed a secret, five-year alliance with Otto von Bismarck. Together the Ausgleich and Dual Alliance defined the parameters of Habsburg domestic and foreign policies from 1879 until the monarchy’s collapse in November 1918. The impact of the Compromise on the conduct of Habsburg foreign and strategic policies has already been examined. An analysis of the monarchy’s place in the international system is now necessary, focusing in this chapter upon the Triple Alliance and in the next the Triple Entente and Vienna’s probable enemies.
Samuel R. Williamson

6. The Monarchy’s Enemies: Serbia, Montenegro and the Triple Entente

Abstract
Intelligence, often called the ‘missing dimension’ of diplomatic history, played a crucial part in shaping Habsburg perceptions about the monarchy’s future. Like other European states, the Danubian government had in the first decade of the twentieth century gradually developed a more systematic approach to the collection, assessment and use of intelligence data. No other government had as many potential enemies: Italy, the ‘allied enemy’ has been discussed, while the more openly hostile neighbours included Serbia, Montenegro and Russia backed by France and Britain. Further, the problem of the Slavs within the monarchy provided each of the possible neighbouring enemies with an ability to confuse and disturb the domestic peace of the Habsburg state. As with so many other features of Austro-Hungarian life, intelligence operations were a fusion of external and domestic considerations. Because of the monarchy’s vulnerable strategic situation, intelligence operations and intelligence data facilitate an understanding of the Habsburg decision-making process. The threat assessments drawn from these intelligence activities also permit insights into the Habsburg ‘official mind’ as it grappled with international and domestic problems confronting Vienna in the era of the Balkan Wars.1
Samuel R. Williamson

7. Militant Diplomacy: the Habsburgs and the First Balkan War, August 1912–May 1913

Abstract
During the summer of 1912 the Balkan League states — Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece — furtively worked to prepare for a clash with the Turks. In August the Montenegrins and the Turks had an armed clash along the Albanian border. Tensions mounted, so much so that Austria-Hungary, Russia and even France grew alarmed. In mid-September Montenegro joined the Balkan League. An attack on Turkey appeared imminent, prompting Constantinople to mobilize troops in Thrace on 22 September. Eight days later the Balkan League mobilized. Then on 8 October Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman empire. On 18 October all the other League members declared war. The First Balkan War had begun.1
Samuel R. Williamson

8. Diplomatic Options Reconsidered: the Second Balkan War and After, June–December 1913

Abstract
Berchtold’s successful coercion of Montenegro in early May 1913 constituted his greatest diplomatic success. The creation of Albania, the denial of Serbian access to the sea and the effective use of military threats for foreign policy purposes — all characterized his efforts from September 1912 to May 1913. Although they were rearguard, holding actions, he nevertheless achieved his goals. But within a few weeks the Second Balkan War challenged his policy assumptions and left the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and its leadership dangerously short of confidence. Whereas the First Balkan War troubled the monarchy, the Second sealed its fate.
Samuel R. Williamson

9. Austria-Hungary and the Last Months Before Sarajevo: January–June 1914

Abstract
The diplomatic and strategic history of states can and does have a personal side that is often ignored or pushed aside in the explication of policy decisions. A vignette from June 1914 illustrates this graphically.
Samuel R. Williamson

10. Vienna and the July Crisis

Abstract
At Bad Ischl on 28 July 1914, eighty-four year old Franz Joseph signed the declaration of war against Serbia. Seated at a small writing table, with a view of his favourite hunting terrain and far removed from the pressures of the capital cities, the monarch reluctantly agreed to replace diplomacy with military action. He did so, moreover, with the clear realization that any war might not remain localized. Russia might intervene and a local war thus become a European struggle. Nevertheless, Franz Joseph, like his senior advisers and generals, did not waiver. Each believed the Serbian problem could only be resolved by military action. To delay further would not only increase the danger but fritter away the strong German support that had been assured. The orders thus went out. Later that same day Austro-Hungarian artillery batteries at Semlin (Zemun) engaged in some sporadic shelling of nearby Belgrade. The Third Balkan War had begun; soon it would become the First World War.
Samuel R. Williamson
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